A number of people active in the area of climate science and activism were asked by the Irish Times in April to contribute a fairly short vignette on where we saw the current situation. My contribution, titled ‘Few options available to avert catastrophe’ is below:
IT IS ALMOST impossible to overstate the urgency and gravity of the climate emergency. Quite simply, this is the defining moment for humanity. The choices this generation make will, one way or another, shape the kind of world our descendants inherit.
While the science of climate change has long been clear, rather than this translating into concerted action we have instead witnessed decades of dithering, denial and political buck-passing. All easy options for a “soft landing” in terms of slowly cutting emissions have now been squandered.
Today, the few options still available to avert complete catastrophe are as unpalatable as they are unpopular. This was made clear with the recent publication of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) synthesis report. Humanity’s pathway to keeping global temperatures below the 1.5 degree danger line has all but disappeared.
We are now facing into an era of unprecedented turmoil, as extreme weather events intensify, stressing the global food system and forcing hundreds of millions to abandon their homelands due to unbearably high temperatures and lethal droughts.
But, like with the persistent ringing of an alarm bell on a neighbour’s house, the public and much of the media seem to have become inured to the warnings and have managed to tune out the sirens and dismiss them as background noise.
It’s a scary time to be alive, yet also one of unique opportunities. No future generation is ever likely to have the chances open to us to still make a difference. Now is the time to prove ourselves to be good ancestors.